Name: Megan Amanda Ehrlich
Hometown: I grew up moving around a lot, mostly between Florida and the DC area.
Where you currently live/dance: San Francisco Ballet
Photo Credit: Valentina Reneff-Olson, @vallady
What are the memorable roles you’ve performed?
A couple of my favorites have been Kitri’s friends in Don Quixote and the fairy of Serenity in Sleeping Beauty (the classics will always have a special place in my heart)!
I loved Liam Scarlett’s Frankenstein, and Robbins’ The Cage! Serenade is another favorite. A couple seasons ago, we were performing it, and 5 hours before the show the ballet masters came up to me and asked if I’d like to do a new spot... I had a 15 minute rehearsal. I had a reputation for picking things up quickly, and I’d performed new spots with no rehearsal before, but this would have been the most obvious if I messed up. I went over it as much as possible and we got to the places call. I remember seeing Erik Tomasson, the company photographer, in the wings and thinking “Oh of course..”, and when the curtain went up, I saw the red light at the back of the house that meant they were filming. I ended up making it with the only one mistake! (What I thought was a soutenu was supposed to be a chassé en tournant. Oops!) Definitely a memorable performance, though!
What are some of your favorite choreographer(s) you’ve worked with?
One of the benefits of working with a large company is a lot of amazing choreographers come through. I’ve been fortunate to have so many great experiences! Christopher Wheeldon choreographed Cinderella my second year in the company; I've gotten to work with Wayne McGregor, Liam Scarlett, Dwight Rhoden.. it’s a long list!
One I’ve gotten to continue working with throughout the years is Yuri Possokhov. It’s such an inspiration to see how passionate he is about what he creates, and how he will be completely caught up in trying to convey his ideas. Every piece is completely unique. There are always so many intentions behind everything in the works he creates, from the steps themselves, to the costumes, lighting, and sets. It always feels like an honor not only getting the opportunity to perform his pieces, but to also be in the studio while he’s creating them.
What kind of pointe shoes do you wear? Any special way you prepare them?
I wear Russian Pointe Rubins. People have tried getting me to change, I briefly tried custom Freeds and Repettos, but the fit was never quite as good and I couldn’t do anything in them because they would be dead before I finished one combination. I’ve gotten so used to wearing and working through hard shoes! I use a box cutter to 3/4 the shank myself, and I put some athletic tape over the edge so it doesn’t cut into my skin. Then I sew the ribbons and elastic and am ready to go!
What was your path to dancing professionally like?
When I was born my mother taught recreational dance to children and she didn't want to leave me with a babysitter, so she would bring me with her. She noticed that as soon as I could walk, I started trying to dance as well, and she passed me on to teachers who knew more.
By the time I was 6, I realized I wanted to train with Vaganova teachers. I started working with Boris Chepelev and Janna Kirova, and eventually was accepted into the Kirov Academy in DC the summer I turned 9. I spent a total of 5 years there, and I graduated from Kirov when I was 15. Then I moved to San Francisco where I had been offered an apprentice position.
Tell us a little about your experience at San Francisco Ballet. What are some of your favorite aspects about being in a large, world-renowned company?
One of the best things is being surrounded by so many incredible dancers. I never lack inspiration whether we’re in rehearsals or just class each day.
We have a beautiful home theater, but it’s also really special to get to travel as often as we do. Since joining, I’ve gotten to go on regional tours, Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center (it was a dream to go back to the theater I grew up watching others perform at), and Orange County. I’ve also gotten to go to Paris and London. Later this year, the company is going to Copenhagen!
Photo Credit: Shelly Wilbanks
What does a day in the life of Megan Amanda look like?
Usually I get up around 7:00, get ready for the day, and head to the studios. I like getting there an hour before class to get ready. A guilty pleasure of mine is picking up Blue Bottle coffee on my way in (I invested in a reusable mug years ago, so I don’t feel quite so bad about getting it so often).
We have company class for an hour fifteen minutes each morning, and then if we’re in our rehearsal season, we generally have three hours, an hour for lunch (during which I try to get outside if I can), and then we have another three hours of rehearsal. Sometimes afterwards I’ll go play a game of pool or watch a friend’s show around the city, but other times I like to just head home and curl up with one of my books or listen to my records!
What challenges have you faced in the dance world, and how have you learned to overcome them?
I’ve had a number of issues that maybe I would have experienced anyway, but the dance world certainly draws them out.
I’ve struggled with eating disorders/self image issues since I was in school. It’s something that to some degree I think I’ll have trouble with for a long time, but I’ve gotten much better at admitting and addressing it. Now, I’m able to notice when I’m having unhealthy thoughts, and then I can work from there instead of falling into unhealthy actions. When I was younger, I felt so ashamed and embarrassed to have these problems, especially when so many of my friends hadn’t gone through these things.
"Dancers having poor relationships with food is a stereotype that most people are familiar with and will bring up; in response, a lot of dancers will jump to defend that it’s not a problem, but for some it can be. I do think society is getting better at acknowledging issues like these, but it can still be difficult when you are experiencing it."
As I’ve gotten more life experience, and I learn about health and the mind, the more I feel I can manage. I’m also not afraid to admit when I’m struggling and ask for help. It’s important to stay healthy especially while dancing and while it can be difficult I hope people don’t feel too afraid to reach out if they need to.